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Apostle John, the Seer of Patmos by Pope Benedict

8/24/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"The Wounded and Dead Lamb Conquers!"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 24, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at Wednesday's general audience, dedicated to the Apostle John, whom he presented on this occasion as "the seer of Patmos."

The meditation is part of the series of reflections he is offering on the Church and the apostles.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last catechesis we meditated on the figure of the Apostle John. At first we tried to see how much can be known of his life. Then, in a second catechesis, we meditated on the central content of his Gospel, of his Letters: charity, love. And today we are again concerned with the figure of John, this time to consider the seer of Revelation.

We must immediately make an observation: Whereas his name never appears in the Fourth Gospel or the letters attributed to the apostle, [the Book of] Revelation makes reference to John's name four times (cf. 1:1,4,9; 22:8). On one hand, it is evident that the author had no reason to silence his name and, on the other, he knew that his first readers could identify him with precision. We know moreover that, already in the third century, the scholars argued over the true identity of the John of Revelation.

For this reason we can also call him "the seer of Patmos," because his figure is linked to the name of this island of the Aegean Sea, where, according to his own autobiographical testimony, he found himself deported "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:19). Precisely on Patmos, "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," John had grandiose visions and heard extraordinary messages, which would have no little influence on the history of the Church and on the whole of Christian culture.

For example, from the title of his book, "Apocalypse" [Revelation], were introduced in our language the words "apocalypse, apocalyptic," which evoke, though inappropriately, the idea of an impending catastrophe.

The book must be understood in the context of the dramatic experience of the seven Churches of Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Tiatira, Sardi, Philadelphia and Laodicea), which toward the end of the first century had to face great difficulties -- persecutions and even internal difficulties -- in their witnessing of Christ. John addresses them, showing profound pastoral sensitivity for persecuted Christians, whom he exhorts to remain steadfast in the faith and not identify with the very strong pagan world.

His objective, in short, is to unveil, from the death and resurrection of Christ, the meaning of human history. The first and essential vision of John, in fact, concerns the figure of the Lamb, which, despite being slain, is standing (cf. Revelation 5:6), placed before the throne where God himself is seated. With this, John wants to tell us two things above all: The first is that Jesus, though he was killed with an act of violence, instead of lying fallen on the ground remains paradoxically standing firmly on his feet, because with the resurrection he has vanquished death definitively.

The second is that Jesus himself, precisely because he died and resurrected, now participates fully in the royal and salvific power of the Father. This is the fundamental vision. Jesus, the Son of God, is, on this earth, a defenseless, wounded and dead Lamb. And yet, he is standing, firm, before the throne of God and participates in the divine power. He has in his hands the history of the world. In this way, the visionary wishes to tell us: Have confidence in Jesus, do not be afraid of opposing powers, of persecution! The wounded and dead Lamb conquers! Follow Jesus, the Lamb, trust Jesus, follow his way! Even if in this world he seems to be the weak Lamb, he is the victor!

The object of one of the principal visions of Revelation is this Lamb at the moment he opens a book, which before was sealed with seven seals, which no one was able to open. John is even presented weeping, as no one could be found able to open the book and read it (cf. Revelation 5:4). History appears as undecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read it.

Perhaps this weeping of John before the very dark mystery of history expresses the disconcertment of the Asian Churches because of God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at that time. It is a disconcertment which might well reflect our surprise in the face of the grave difficulties, misunderstandings and hostilities that the Church also suffers today in several parts of the world.

They are sufferings which the Church certainly does not deserve, as Jesus did not deserve punishment either. However, they reveal both man's maliciousness, when he allows himself to be led by the snares of evil, as well as the higher governance of events by God. So, only the immolated Lamb is ...

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